Update: War in Iraq

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Iraqis say, "Same Donkey, Different Blanket"

by Susan Galleymore

After serving nine months in Afghanistan, my son was deployed to the Sunni Triangle on January 9, 2004. I sought support from "military moms" then realized that none amongst us knew what was really going on there.

Three weeks ago, I packed my bag, traveled to Baghdad and talked to GIs, Iraqi professionals, and Iraqi mothers affected by the occupation.

I learned about:

Random shootings: jittery GIs shoot Iraqi civilians in the streets. Anwar Jeward lost her husband, 18 year old son, and 14 and 8 year old daughters this way. Her 10 year old daughter, Abir, was left for dead in the street after a female GI stole the gold earrings from the child's ears.

Mid-night house arrests: GIs smash down doors of Iraqi residences, order mothers and children outside in their nightclothes, and question fathers whose faces are ground into the dirt by a heavy military boot on their neck. Iraqis agree, "Not even Saddam treated us like this."

Pediatric oncology hospital wards: understaffed, underfunded, poor in resouces and medicine but rich in young patients. While children suffer from a range of cancers, many environmental, their parents sell cars, houses, and worldly belongings to afford 8-days sessions of chemotherapy. Frequently, three years of such 8-day sessions are required.

Fresh out of boot-camp GIs: killed, wounded, or damaged; one 18 year old reportedly crumbled psychologically after his first kill. He said, "it was nothing like video games." He was lucky his PTSD qualified him for a return to the States; too many GIs are killed by IEDs tossed into their vehicles or left on the roads, or by "friendly fire."

Three women on the Iraqi Governing Council: they represent "Womens' Issues" and all Iraqi women depend on IGC for the review of equitable secular law but "Womens' Issues" has no budget.

Farming villages like Abu Hishma: houses of suspected insurgents bombed; villages surrounded by razor-wire; villagers placed under curfew 15 out of 24 hours a day; entrance and egress controlled by English languge ID cards; farmers unable to tend crops or livestock.

Battalion commander Lt. Col. Nathan Sassaman: of the Sunni Triangle, he believes, "With a heavy dose of fear and violence, and a lot of money for projects, I think we can convince these people that we are here to help them." Military leadership never responded to my requests for information on visiting my son but - after a week of searching -- I hired a driver/translator to take me to the military base where I suspected he might be. Serendipitiously, I found him and met his colleagues. That base, using up 22 square miles of farming land, is growing by leaps and bounds as contractors from Kellog, Root, and Brown, subsidiary of Halliburton, supply building materials, food, American supermarket items, laundry services, internet cafes, telephones, everything but combat personnel. For that pleasure, our sons and daughters are paid minimal wage for maximum danger.

My trip to visit my son was relatively trouble free: only one incident with bombs blocking the highway on our return.

I'm back home and now I know what is going on in Iraq: our leadership is destroying the spirits of GIs and Iraqi civilians in an unnecessary, money-grubbing free-for-all under the guise of necessary war and occupation. Iraqis, too, know what is going on; they describe the situation as, "Same donkey, different blanket."

Susan is an interactive producer, writer, and mother who travelled to Baghdad between January 24 and February 4, 2004. You can contact her at motherspeak@motherspeak.org and view the web site, www.motherspeak.org

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